New Zealand rode home on the coat tails of Martin Guptill to draw first blood in the Twenty20 series against South Africa tonight.
Guptill cracked a scintillating 78 not out off 55 balls as the Black Caps won the first of three matches by six wickets at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
He maintained his irresistible form from the recent series against Zimbabwe to ensure New Zealand chased down South Africa’s 147 for six with four balls remaining, much to the delight of a crowd close to 20,000 in number.
He hit five fours and four sixes, one over the stadium roof at deep mid wicket off left-arm quick Lonwabo Tsotsobe, a blow estimated to have travelled 130m.
Guptill totally dominated the New Zealand innings but there was another intelligent contribution from Kane Williamson, who played neatly into the gaps when making 24 off 21 balls before being run out in the 17th over.
Guptill was always in control, except perhaps in the 18th over when a short sharp ball from Rusty Theron crashed into his helmet grill, sending him to the ground.
He bounced back up though, waved away queries of concern from the tourists, and promptly cross batted the next ball down the ground for four.
The New Zealand batsmen coped well enough tonight with the extra pace generated by the South Africans, with the lanky Morne Morkel at least twice being clocked at 150km/h, but they can expect to face more short pitched bowling as the series progresses.
The New Zealanders had largely performed outstandingly with the ball and in the field to hold South Africa in check after the tourists were inserted.
They got on top early and largely remained in control, save from the 16th over when Justin Ontong deposited offspinner Kane Williamson for four consecutive sixes in an arc from deep mid wicket to long on.
Williamson conceded 26 off the over, but in his only previous over he gave away just one runs after flummoxing left-hander JP Duminy for five balls.
New Zealand were aggressive in the field, as exemplified by fast bowler Tim Southee, who returned figures of three for 28 off four overs.
Southee built up a head of steam, struck opener Richard Levi in the helmet then had the satisfaction of seeing the strongly built right-hander chip him to long on to be the third wicket to fall for 38 runs off the last ball of the sixth over.
Hashim Amla had briefly threatened at the top of the innings before being run out for 19 off 15, then Colin Ingram charged and missed offspinner Nathan McCullum, who did an excellent job opening the bowling with figures of one for 16 off four.
Duminy and Onting turned things around for a period but once Onting’s 17-ball 32 was ended when Southee accepted a smart caught and bowled Duminy top-edged the same bowler behind square leg to depart in the 18th over for 41 off 37.
Seamer Doug Bracewell was another New Zealand bowler to front, giving away just 10 runs from three overs, including three off the 19th, two of which were leg byes.
The second match in the three-match series is at Hamilton on Sunday night.